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When you look at your community, which includes the churches, the bureaucracy, the social groups you are a part of, you’re standing back to look at the part you’re playing in all those situations and standing back again to fit that that into the context of, “Where am I in this stage of life?” Because different stages of life require a different way of playing in all of the systems. If you’re arriving at the stage of life where you’re beginning to feel the desire to spend a little more quiet time reflecting and you’re still holding onto the model that, “I’m supposed to serve and do and do and do,” you push away the other thing as laziness or as loss of energy or as an error, and then you’re not really hearing the whole issue of what is unique about this stage of life.

I think it is very naïve to think that people as they age suddenly are going to say, “Well, I’ve finished my work in the world, goodbye world!” Because your ego is part of the system of the world, and you’ll do violence to it if you walk away that way. And not only that, but society needs the kind of stuff you have to offer at this point, you’ve just got to figure out how to offer it. Offering into society the wisdom of your experience. Offering your time to other people.

As you look at the forest of incarnation, or the drama or story, there will be different systems of which you are a part. Your game is to have a reflective moment where you take that system and look at it and see where you are in it. How you are playing in it, how conscious you are about it. Are you honoring it in a way that isn’t entrapping you? You don’t want to deny it and you don’t want to be entrapped by it. These are the two extremes of every system, including aging. It’s one of the many systems you are a part of.

When you see the kinds of rips and tears in the social fabric that comes with so many unpredictable forces happening in terms of technology and changes in different aspects of society, you watch the breakdowns of family, the violence and greed. You see that the fabric of the society gets very frayed and then you recognize that age gives you a perspective to see that, to not be part of the fraying process. And this awareness allows you to play a part in the reweaving. Not going backwards, but hearing how to weave a new pattern out of all this. And that’s part of what being an elder in a society is all about.

 

-Ram Dass

 

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